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Is tuberculosis still serious?

Tuberculosis has been associated with coughing and high mortality rates in past centuries. Indeed, after World War II, it was one of the leading causes of death in Poland. Is this disease still a threat and how can it be prevented? I provide answers to these questions in this article.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis in Poland and in the world

Is a bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium. Most often it nests in the lungs, although secondarily bacteria can colonize almost every part of the body, even bones or the brain. The most common complications are irreversible changes in the lungs and pleura (the membrane in which the lungs are closed).

Despite the serious effects of the infection, tuberculosis is no longer a very common problem in Western countries. In Poland, is slightly more common than on average in the European Union, however, cases of drug-resistant are reported less frequently. The trend in Poland and in the world is declining – we can count on further progress in the fight against in the near future.

 

Who is affected?

Due to the compulsory immunization program, the problem of tuberculosis affects a relatively small group of people. The disease most often affects:

  • Adults (over 45 years old)
  • Men (3 times more men than women die )
  • HIV infected
  • Alcoholics, drug addicts

Everyone who comes into contact with a patient suffering from tuberculosis is at risk of infection (this is a patient who, during, for example, coughing or sneezing, releases pathogenic bacteria – tuberculosis mycobacteria together with saliva droplets. diagnostics and sometimes prophylactic antibiotic therapy.

 

Symptoms and diagnosis

The first symptom  is a long-lasting cough. There is pus discharge and hemoptysis. In the advanced form of the disease, pulmonary failure occurs. When mycobacteria are spread in the body, usually many months after the initial infection, symptoms develop from the organs affected by the disease.

Detection  is associated with the performance of medical tests. The basic diagnostic tool is taking a chest X-ray. Lung lesions may indicate tuberculosis even if abnormalities are accidentally detected.

Disease confirmation is obtained by culturing bacteria from sputum or lung secretions. Undoubtedly, tests such as tuberculin test and IGRA test also contribute to the diagnosis.

 

Treatment 

Treatment of tuberculosis is long and requires systematic treatment. Treatment with antibiotic regimens lasts from 6 to 12 months, depending on the progress of the disease or the detection of drug-resistant strains.

The most commonly used antibiotics are rifampicin, isoniazid, pyrazinamide and ethambutol.

In addition to antibiotics, auxiliary drugs are used, e.g. steroids (glucocorticosteroids), which include they inhibit the body’s immune response and thus have anti-inflammatory properties.

Tuberculosis is not very common, for it to remain that way, preventive measures should be taken. The use of preventive vaccinations, rapid diagnosis of symptoms (especially haemoptysis), treatment of diseases associated with the loss of immunity (AIDS) and the fight against alcohol addiction are the basic methods of fighting tuberculosis. In Poland, the vaccine “BCG-10” (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin – the name comes from the surnames belonging to a French doctor and bacteriologist) is used, nota bene, produced in Lublin, used for several dozen years. Currently, newborns are vaccinated in the first 24 hours of life, so the vaccine is given shortly after each baby is born. Since 2006, only one dose of this vaccine has been administered due to the fact that no protective effect against tuberculosis has been demonstrated after the administration of subsequent “booster” doses – the revaccination. Interestingly, this old – almost 100-year-old vaccine developed in France has a pleiotropic effect, consisting in immunostimulation of the immune system and thus increasing human immunity to many potentially pathogenic pathogens, including coronaviruses and other viruses. Currently, research is carried out in many research centers around the world. the impact of the BCG-10 vaccine on the easier course of infection caused by COVID-19 – such studies are carried out, for example, in Australia. The research results are to be made public in the fourth quarter of 2020. For research in Australia, a vaccine that is produced in Poland is used (Brazilian Moreau strain – considered one of the safest strains used in the production of a vaccine against tuberculosis – cohort studies from Australia 2020).

Seek medical attention if tuberculosis is suspected or if you are in contact with tuberculosis. Accurate diagnosis and preventive diagnosis of the disease, in the case of contact with a sick person, allows for effective treatment or exclusion of a potentially dangerous health problem.

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